June 28, 2010

Village of Hommlet: The titular Village

As I mentioned last time, the PC:s will have a pair of rescued prisoners on their hands after rampaging through the cell block. Time to return them to Hommlet!

4E Hommlet lacks a thorough description of every house in the village, the people living inside and the 1000 gp diamonds they keep in secret compartments. What it does have is maps of the village and the inn "The Welcome Wench", a two-page spread describing the most important buildings (said inn, a druid's grove, the temple of Pelor, the trading post, a shrine of Avandra, the home of the village elder and a defensive tower that's under construction) and another spread about the notable denizens (The innkeeper, the priest of Pelor, Rufus and Burne - the two retired adventurers building the tower, the traders at the post, a local bumpkin/spy etraordinaire and various people including the druid).

If you use the town as a starting point in the adventure, it has some hooks for getting the characters to the Moathouse, adventure and glory. They can either agree to track down a brandy shipment (which was stolen by the bandits in the Moathouse) or they can go collect herbs for the druid (during this, they'll stumble upon the Moathouse). In my opinion, the herb quest sucks and I went with a combination of looking for the brandy shipment and having the druid speak gravely about Evil Rising In The Area. It helped that the elven Avenger was sent to Hommlet by his superiors in Celene with a message for the druid.

Hommlet isn't just an adventurer pit stop, though. If the PC:s want to get involved, they can hook the local acolyte up with the barmaid he loves, or get entangled in local politics by giving the elder the evidence she needs to have the council increase patrols (this could be the start of a long campaign of dabbling in politics, if the PC:s keep adventuring in the vicinity of Hommlet). And then there are the cult spies. We'll get to that little subplot later.

Oh, there are NPC:s that may be willing to come along for a small price. Good if the party is smaller than usual, but a full-sized party shouldn't need extras.

This got long but hey, what do you expect from a town writeup. Next time, we delve further into the Moathouse.

June 21, 2010

Village of Hommlet 4E: The Cell Block

If the PC:s, after defeating the bandits, find the secret door in the leader's room and decide to go down there (reaching the closet to the north of room 14) instead of taking the stairs (to room 11) and go north from that closet, they'll bypass the cell block and meet a band of ornery bugbears instead. More on those in a few posts, but as it is this room is likely to be the third combat encounter.

What we have here is an encounter with the ogre Lubash and metric buttloads of zombies. If the PC:s get hold of the evil looking cloaks from room 12 and wear them, Lubash will invite them to his lair to keep them safe from the zombies (because he'll think they work for the evil cult running the show on the lower levels). The bandit leader is a good opportunity to drop this factoid, but as written, expect a fight.

Lubash - a level 8 skirmisher - is a pretty good match for level 4 PC:s. However, if they enter his room from the north (like my players did), the zombies will arrive after he's dead and get slowly slaughtered as the PC:s can bottleneck them in the two rooms leading there. It's a decent fight, and I'd say the players deserve the easy ending if they bypass the zombies by taking the back door, so I have no changes to suggest.

Room 14 is Lubash's larder, which holds some prisoners (including any replacement PC:s you want to put there) The group has now taken on three fights of varying difficulty, become responsible for a few prisoners, and possibly found out that there is a nasty cult afoot in the Moathouse. This is an excellent opportunity for them to report back to Hommlet. More on that in the next post.

Finally, a peevee. There are two ways to progress. Both are secret - the passage to the north and the secret door in the pillar in room 13. The DC:s for spotting either are also quite high. On the other hand, if everyone searches, someone will probably succeed, so it's probably OK. If the PC:s are totally stumped, have the ghouls in the room to the east attack (leaving the secret pillar door open).

June 14, 2010

Village of Hommlet 4E: The Bandits

After the PC:s foil the furious frogs, they get to battle the brutal bandits. It looks a little railroady so far, but once we get into the Moathouse proper, the PC:s will get more choices. If we assume the group is new, running them on rails for the first two encounters might not be bad.

What's supposed to happen here is that there are tons of archers firing at the group from inside the Moathouse, while the melee enemies (The bandit leader Enzer, a few regular bandits, and a barely tame rage drake) confront the PC:s in the courtyard (area #3). What actually happened when I ran this was that the whole group ran from the drawbridge to the stairs. Taking a double move gets you there in a round, so you can imagine the cluster that formed in the main hall (area #4).

With smart players, you too should expect the encounter to mostly take place there. A subversion would be to have the drake chained in the courtyard (weakly enough to break free when the PC:s arrive).

Anyway, one of the players decided to try to talk to the bandits. Not a bad idea, I thought, and whipped up a skill challenge. (That's the beauty of PbP: If your players surprise you, you have a day or two to come up with a comeback.) There was probably going to be a fight either way, but if they succeeded Enzer would spill some clues about the lower levels before attacking. Otherwise, there just aren't that many.

Some fateful rolls later, there was a fight. Enzer is a decent distraction, the rage drake is nifty, the archers do their job even in close quarters. However, the Human Bandits are rolling +4 attacks versus AC:s of 19 and 21 (in my group, which wasn't overly optimized). That's just silly. This was certainly a harder fight than the frog butchery, but in the end, the PC:s will prevail.

As I mentioned last time, consider moving two or three of the frogs in here too. Maybe they barge in after the PC:s cross the drawbridge, adding another incentive to stay in the courtyard.

Next up: The Moathouse basement is a nasty place.

June 07, 2010

Village of Hommlet 4E: The Frogs

Welcome, dear reader, to my Village of Hommlet 4E conversion read-through. Back in 2009, WOTC sent it as a gift to everyone who were signed up as an RPGA DM. This is something you can do without actually running anything for the RPGA, and totally free. Not one to refuse free swag, I signed up when the brouhaha started on EnWorld that WOTC were sending out MOTHER#¤&#¤&! VILLAGE OF HOMMLET.

Anyway, in the fine tradition of Eleven Foot Pole, I intend to go over the various elements of the module - that being nine encounters, the village itself, and the epilogue. In the interest of full disclosure, yes I've ran the module. First time I ever DM:d anything too.

Let's start in media res. That's Latin for "Get on with it!". Meet the frogs!

The frogs are kind of a classic encounter. The PC:s arrive at the Moathouse a few hours away from Hommlet. Frogs burst out of the swamp and attack because hey, they're hungry and a bunch of heavily armed thugs looks like a good meal right now.

In the original (note that I don't have it, so there won't be that many references to it), the frogs could reel in small characters with their tongues and eat them alive. (Protip: Gary Gygax hated hobbits.) In 4E, they still haul people in and eat them, but there's no instakill, you just take damage every round.

Unfortunately, the giant frogs are level 3 Controllers, in a module billed for 4:th level characters. Two of them burst out of the pond (marked "1" on the map) at the start of combat, then one more trickles in every round until there's five. Now what do tactically minded characters do with an underleveled encounter that comes in small waves? They murder it, that's what.

Not that I mind. This is the first combat encounter in the module, and it's okay if it's easy. It might not be the PC:s' first encounter ever, since it's a fourth level module (the original was for starting characters). However, if you want to make it harder, I suggest merging this encounter with the next one (and maybe remove one or two frogs).

Finally, as I hinted at in the beginning: The module doesn't actually start with this encounter. (It starts in Hommlet, duh.) But I strongly suggest you, the DM, do. Hommlet is rife with roleplaying opportunities for the inevitable break in the Moathouse exploration, and after the group is completely done there.

Next up: Oh, I already told you about the bandits, did I?

June 01, 2010

CSI: Greyhawk

In the files marked "Stuff I'd like to run sometimes", there's one entitled "CSI: Greyhawk". The actual town isn't important (Sharn might be better if I knew diddly about Eberron), but investigative adventures ALL THE TIME feels like it could be fun.

The PC:s would be officially empowered to investigate crimes, either as part of the legal system (probably more Eberron/Forgotten Realms) or as the Queen's Finest, yadayada. Whatever, people die, there's a crime scene, characters use their various abilities to find clues leading them to the badguy and kick his/her arse.

So what system would I use for this. D&D 4E is nice with its skill challenges, and rituals if mere skills fail the PC:s. I've even considered a twist to skill challenges: The PC:s would be able to use any skill they want, letting them spam their best skill if they prefer that, but only the first success with any given skill gives them an actual clue to work with. This would encourage using different skills.

However, I'm seriously considering 3:rd edition. Let the spellcasters worry about picking utility spells or fighty spells. Rogues get to use their skills. There will be enough fights that the fighters aren't completely useless, but frankly, I'd boost their skill points and skill lists for a campaign like this. As written... I suppose they could Intimidate suspects.

There are of course systems like Gumshoe that are written specifically to handle mystery games well, but what's the fun in that, eh? Still, don't be afraid to steal ideas from there.